For instance, I posted what was perhaps the first comment for this question, stating that the generic name for the item in question was a "keyboard", and that a more specific identification would likely only be the specification of the manufacturer's name. (There was nothing that could be considered even borderline inflammatory about the comment.) This was ahead of choster's comment. My later comment remains, but that first one has been deleted for some reason.

And this same thing has happened three or four other times.


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    Only a moderator can say for sure, but I think that sometimes a moderator will check a flagged comment—or just happen upon a post that has elicited a bunch of comments—and decide that there are too many of them; then, instead of applying the more-lenient standard of "if it isn't doing any harm, leave it alone," the mod applies the stricter "does it contribute something meaningful to the discussion that isn't supplied elsewhere on the page (in a formal answer, for example)" standard. Under that standard, lots of inoffensive content (jokes, personal anecdotes, etc.) gets the ax. ... – Sven Yargs Jan 16 '16 at 6:30
  • ... The most highly upvoted comment I ever made got deleted under similar circumstances: Someone had asked about a translation error in which someone had badly misunderstood what an English idiom meant and had replaced the idiom with their faulty definition, which was something like “run, run for your life.” In my comment I joked that whoever had made that error undoubtedly had to run, run for their life. Dumb or not, the comment had more than 50 upvotes the last time I saw it. ... – Sven Yargs Jan 16 '16 at 6:30
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    ... Then someone added a controversial comment to the many comments already there, and a mod came and swept everything away that wasn’t serious, pertinent, and unobjectionable. I look at it this way: Comments aren’t built to last, and even comments that are good for morale have no right to exist that outweighs a moderator’s whim to the contrary. But that doesn’t mean that posting jokes, anecdotes, or snappy rejoinders isn’t a good thing. ... – Sven Yargs Jan 16 '16 at 6:31
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    ... I think the lively, personal tone and frequent flashes of humor that come through in extemporaneous comments are extremely important for the community spirit around here. So keep posting comments, Hot Licks—but don’t count on seeing any of them still in place the next day just because they aren’t offensive. – Sven Yargs Jan 16 '16 at 6:31
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    It is tiresome to see users who post "answers" in comments, you're not alone in doing this, if you feel the answer was obvious then vote to close the question. If you post an answer in the comments and later see someone has posted/copied that answer then delete the comment. It is of no more use to anyone. – Mari-Lou A Jan 16 '16 at 8:12
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    The supposed "dupe" is in no way close to my question. The comment I posted was not in any way sarcastic nor could it have been taken (by any reasonable person) to be offensive. And it served as a "seed" for the further discussion that developed. Plus there was not a large number of comments, and the question was pretty new, so no pressing need to "clean up". – Hot Licks Jan 16 '16 at 13:52
  • I'll add that I've only had this issue on EUL. I've got a 30K rep on SO and can't recall ever having a comment vaporize there, except perhaps for one or two exceedingly sarcastic ones. – Hot Licks Jan 16 '16 at 13:55
  • So they finally got to you too. Ironic, isn't it. – Ricky Jan 17 '16 at 1:15
  • The older question is basically asking "Why was my comment deleted?" and so is the newer question. You're not asking on behalf of the community, you don't care if you see the same thing happening to a different user. Have you never witnessed a different user whose comment was summarily deleted? Did you ask in meta for an explanation? This is just a self-centred question. – Mari-Lou A Jan 17 '16 at 9:11
  • @Mari-LouA: That's right. Down with egotists. May the fleas of every camel in the world infest their armpits. – Ricky Jan 18 '16 at 0:03
  • I asked about this instance because it's one I know about, plus if there's something I'm doing to provoke it I'd like to know what it is. I assume that if it happens to me it happens to others, but I don't memorize everyone else's comments, nor, if I do happen to notice someone else's comment disappearing, do I have any way to tell that the author didn't delete it himself. – Hot Licks Jan 18 '16 at 0:09
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    Marked as a duplicate after two days. Well played! – deadrat Jan 18 '16 at 19:03
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    Update: This is extremely trivial and of no practical interest to anyone (and therefore summarily deletable), but in the interest of accuracy, I just want to note that my highly upvoted joke that got deleted wasn't the one about "run, run for your life"; it was the one about the Stone Age English expression "It isn't rock science." I hope that this correction sets the record straight. – Sven Yargs Jan 19 '16 at 18:59
  • @SvenYargs - I vaguely remember that one. It was pretty good! – Hot Licks Jan 19 '16 at 19:10

Personally, I wouldn't mind if TPTB arranged for the Community user to periodically delete a few older comments at random. In fact, I could easily be persuaded this would be a good idea.

I've no doubt that in their capacity as moderators, our mod team would all agree that I post far too many comments on ELU (particularly, comments that aren't directly relevant to the post in question). I probably won't change my behaviour unless I'm specifically taken to task over this, but I certainly wouldn't expect to win the argument over whether I'm in the right or not.

In case anyone has trouble finding the relevant Help Page, in essence it says...

Only posts comments to...
1: Request clarification
2: Leave constructive criticism that may prompt someone to improve a post
3: Add relevant but minor or transient information to a post
(e.g. a link to a related question, or an alert to the author that the question has been updated).

Don't use comments to...
1: Suggest trivial corrections (instead, make or suggest an edit)
2: Resolve the OP's question (instead, post an actual answer)
3: Agree or disagree (instead, use up/downvotes)
4: Start or continue extended discussions (instead, use 'chat' or 'meta')

The bottom line is comments should be seen as ephemeral. If there's anything important that needs to be preserved, it should be in the relevant Question or Answer (or you should post a new Answer). But unless the mods start complaining about the excessive workload caused by non-observance of this principle, I see nothing wrong with the way things are currently handled.

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    Of course I was just reading another thread here that suggested posting a comment rather than correcting "minor" errors. (And I'm not saying that comments shouldn't be relatively "ephemeral", but one would expect them to last more than a few hours unless there is something objectionable.) – Hot Licks Jan 16 '16 at 18:37
  • @Hot Licks: I understand. It seems to me that in general the mods don't do much tidying up of comments while a post is still "hot" (and I did specifically say older comments when suggesting "deliberately random" auto-deletion). But noting my second paragraph above, although I sympathize with your irritation at having your pearls of wisdom swept aside (which has also happened to me now and then), I think we'd be on a hiding to nothing asking for reinstatement. – FumbleFingers Jan 16 '16 at 19:09

The post in question drew a "too many comments" flag, which usually means that a discussion or argument has erupted in the comments. The usual response is to move the comments to chat, prune chatty comments, or purge the chain outright.

There was nothing offensive about your comments, just that there were too many comments on the post and when they were pruned, yours was cut. Although I did not take action on the post, I can see that the moderator who did removed many chatty comments.

You answered the question in your comment, you did not tell the OP that the question was off-topic. I am pretty sure that's why your comment was deleted but not choster's.

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  • ??? By my count right now there are 11 comments. At the time my first comment was deleted I believe there were only about 6. I've seen comment chains of 20-30 comments remain relatively unmolested. And as to "off-topic", I've seen high-rep users drone on monotonously forever on topics like the name of a lobster. Why is a keyboard different from a lobster? – Hot Licks Jan 18 '16 at 13:53
  • @HotLicks There were about 15 comments and more than half were removed at the time, if my reckoning is correct. We prune or purge many, many, many comment chains. I assure you it is not personal and has nothing to do with your rep level. You are a good contributor, as your history reflects. – Kit Z. Fox Jan 18 '16 at 14:11
  • As for off-topic, I meant only that your comment overlapped choster's except that choster's mentioned that it was off-topic, which is additional information for the OP. I did not mean to imply that I had a stance with regard to topicality. – Kit Z. Fox Jan 18 '16 at 14:14

I cite relevant passages from "A Theory of Moderation"*:

Your goal is to guide the community with gentle -- but firm -- intervention.... [D]emonstrate fairness and impartiality in your actions.

Whenever possible, try to leave frequent comments on posts where you've taken (or considered taking) a moderator action, explaining the reasoning.

The ideal moderator does as little as possible.

This is not the theory underlying the practice of moderation on ELU. Moderation is a constant and intrusive presence, with moderators closing questions as fast as they can type, scrubbing comments they deem unsuitable, and handing "timeouts" to questions and posters alike. I have never seen a moderator explain anything.

That said, moderation is very much in accord with the views of a significant portion of the ELU community, the part that seriously considers the site to be part of (for lack of a better word) the academy. And that's pretty much the answer to your plaintive ending question.

*Emphasis in the original.

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  • "... the triumphantly ignorant self-righteous segment that with childish naivete considers the site to be part ..." – Ricky Jan 17 '16 at 1:10
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    I must respectfully disagree. The way I've understood the bit about leaving comments on moderator action pertains to significantly editing, locking, or deleting posts, converting answers to comments, etc. In other words, big stuff that might cause some resentment or a meta post if it wasn't explained. Comments are second-class citizens at best, subject to removal without any notice whatsoever, and if comment removal required comments, well, that would not only be entirely too much work for a mod, but would junk up the page with a lot of silly comments stating... – anongoodnurse Jan 17 '16 at 7:37
  • (cont)..."@X, your comment was flagged as not constructive, and I agree, so I removed it." That took the better part of a minute for me. No chance should clearing flags on comments take that long, especially on a busy site. Comments are disposable: unlike posts, there's no revision history, and they can be deleted without warning by their authors, by moderators, and in response to flags. – anongoodnurse Jan 17 '16 at 7:38
  • What is a moderator supposed to do if they see three flags for a comment? I've had my pearls of wisdom deleted so frequently, I am now in the habit of self-deleting my comments when no one has addressed my clarification or shown any interest in my observation. When a stack of comments are moved to chat the mods leave a comment/explanation. It would be unreasonable to expect an explanation for every comment deleted. – Mari-Lou A Jan 17 '16 at 9:57
  • Moderators will never see three flags on a comment. The system deletes the comment automatically on the second flag. – Andrew Leach Jan 17 '16 at 14:50
  • @AndrewLeach ack! I did not know that. Just two users' flags are needed to delete a comment. – Mari-Lou A Jan 17 '16 at 16:03
  • @medica I'm not entirely sure what you're respectfully disagreeing with. I'm not proposing that comments be made sacrosanct or that flagged comments generate extra work for moderators. (Although click here youtube.com/watch?v=AiMXd4U8kFQ for my feelings on the latter.) Given HotLicks' question, Mari-LouA's comment above, and my own experience, I think the treatment of comments is of a piece with the rest of moderation. That's an observation, not a change request. – deadrat Jan 17 '16 at 17:07
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    @Mari-LouA I don't know which is worse -- that your comments are regularly deleted or that you're now moved to censor yourself. I read your comments even when I don't add my own comments on the subject at hand, and I find it hard to believe that many of your comments are flag-worthy. I'm not talking about moving comments to chat: that action is self-explanatory. – deadrat Jan 17 '16 at 17:13
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    @AndrewLeach Are you sure? In this FAQ about comments it is stated that "it currently takes 3 + (Score / 3) flags to [automatically] delete a comment". – Massimo Ortolano Jan 17 '16 at 17:27
  • @MassimoOrtolano It may depend on the type of flag. I've definitely seen two be sufficient; but in any case, the main point stands that moderators may never get to see flagged comments if there are enough of them. – Andrew Leach Jan 17 '16 at 18:42
  • @deadrat - Apologies. I misunderstood/misinterpreted your answer. The comments being the main question and all, I thought you were addressing comments as well. – anongoodnurse Jan 17 '16 at 19:28
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    @medica I meant interfering with comment threads as well. Everyone realizes that comments are less important than Q&A's. While that means that moderator interference is less important there, it should also mean that moderator interference should less common. I keep hearing about the onerous job that moderation is, so I'd think moderators would spend little time on unflagged commentary, but I'd think wrong. – deadrat Jan 17 '16 at 19:40
  • @deadrat - I do disagree with your belief that moderator intervention should be less common on comments. Also, mods might not even be deleting comments on sites as busy as this one; if three users raise a flag (say, not constructive), it may well disappear without moderator intervention. In that case, it is the community self-moderating, which is an explicit goal of SO sites. – anongoodnurse Jan 17 '16 at 19:47
  • @Mari-LouA If you don't agree with ELU theory of moderation, I'd advise not doing their job for them. Certainly it's pointless to complain about the issue with respect to comments. I'd go further to say it's pointless to complain about moderation in general. (I've responded when I've been poked, but that's because I'm a jerk.) The moderation is in line with the views of much of the community, which, to be fair, has support from the charter and the history. – deadrat Jan 17 '16 at 19:50
  • @medica It wouldn't even be the first time today that I've been wrong, and I don't have access to the deletion history. Certainly comments that are spam, abuse, and misinformation need to be pruned. I don't believe that HotLicks' comment referenced in this question or any of Mari-LouA's fall into that category. – deadrat Jan 17 '16 at 19:57

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